Jun 162014

Described as ‘Ronnie Barker’s Porridge meets Gene Wilder’s Stir Crazy’, former inmate James Crosbie relates a number of tales of what went on behind the walls of that grim granite fortress once the doors had clanged shut. David Innes reviews.

Peterheid PorridgeIt’s quite apposite that it’s been published now, with, in recent weeks, the replacement prison in the Blue Toon having had its first riot.

Despite the new prison’s much-acclaimed state-of-the-art facilities, beyond the dreams of the old jail’s cons who populate Crosbie’s book, incarceration and loss of freedom must still be the frustrations that fuel the fire of insurrection.

Peterhead Porridge in many ways lifts the lid on the coping strategies developed by prisoners for whom release seems a far-off fantasy and whose biggest enemies are boredom and apathy.

Content to keep his head down and do his time with little fuss and only occasional ducking and diving, Crosbie cannot hide his admiration for those who use humour, very often of the cruellest kind, to relieve the drudgery and make even just a few minutes less mind-numbing.

So, we’re treated to a litany of background anecdotes on nicknames for fellow cons and their enemies the screws, and a succession of accounts of practical jokes, pranks and little victories against the system, all ways of beating the tedium.

In the hyper-macho world behind bars, one-upmanship is all. To lose face is to invite ridicule and among the best parts of Peterhead Porridge are the droll and amusing accounts of circumstances in which the thinkers hold sway over the boastful and aggressive.

There is cruelty too, but Crosbie has left out anything too harrowing as he learns to cope with his loss of freedom, even becoming a regular petitioner for the rights of his peers.

Even if some of the tales fall into the “you had to be there” (er, no thanks) category, there are belly-laugh moments throughout. The key to survival, in the absence of the key to the front door, seems to be to ensure that no weakness is displayed. The lag who let slip his fear of Peterhead’s fearsome seagulls is a hilarious example of the consequences and the recurring theme of a worthwhile series of tales.

Peterhead Porridge by James Crosbie
Black & White Publishing

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Jun 132014

Old Susannah’s news round up of current events local and larger, online and offline. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryNow that summer has arrived, things are heating up, at least in Aberdeen Town Hall, and on Facebook. There are a mere 99 days to go before the referendum on Scotland’s future. I for one will be sad to see the end of the friendly debates, good humoured disagreements, and logical discourse.

One or two interesting memes have made the rounds on Facebook (memes are digital posters, usually pictures and text, trying to prove something, to mislead, or just to promote laughter. Hard to tell with some of them what the desired result is).

More on that later.

Rick Mayall has passed away; an alternative comic who packed a heck of a lot into his 56 years.  The Young Ones, Bottom and The New Statesman were among his great comic works.

If you missed The New Statesman, it followed the life of the fictional MP Alan B’Stard.  B’Stard the MP was elitist, completely dishonest, devious, greedy, self-centred,  egotistical, ambitious beyond his talents, and cared for no one but himself.  As such, it will be hard for any of us today to imagine such an MP  could exist, but it was a hilarious series at the time.

Enjoy some of Mr Mayall’s best moments here.

In a surprising development – literally a development – those nice people at Muse want to move the goal posts on their St Nicholas House project. Actually they don’t want to move the goal posts; they want to move (or remove) bits and  pieces of Provost Skene’s House to make their shiny new office complex even more spectacular and original than it already is.

Provost Skene’s House is after all not as pretty as a glass box, and it’s very inconveniently located. You might think that since 2,500 people all contributed to a public consultation that this is a bit late in the day to start dismantling Provost Skene’s footprint. After all, it’s not as if a public consultation in this city would ever be disregarded.

Of course, there was the biased ‘consultation’ on the short list of 6 designs for Union Terrace Gardens; we were not allowed to vote for leaving the gardens alone.

Then again, there was the consultation for 6 possible routes for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. Tens of thousands of pounds were spent on roadshows displaying the proposals, the public voted on these routes – and then at the end of the day, a brand new route was invented to cut through the greenbelt (what’s left of it) and chosen with no public say.

Then there was the public consultation on planting a tree for every citizen.

The slight problem there was that the city planned in advance to exterminate a herd of deer to plant the trees on a rubbish tip where a previous attempt had failed and cost £43,800, and the city decided  not to burden the public with these minor details during the consultation, and when the fact came out at last, they refused to listen to the 3500 people and community councils that objected.

Sustainable Development refers to building thousands of homes in boring greenbelt land

Yes, a consultation is an important exercise to go through here in Aberdeen. If you do want to comment on Muse’s plans for Provost Skene’s house, I’m sure your views will be listened to (I’m sure this consultation will be different); you can do so here (just put in reference number 140755.

The responsible department is aptly called ‘Planning and Sustainable Development’.

The word ‘Planning’ refers to all the well thought out, expertly organised projects that never deviate from the approved designs (from the council house car garages that were too small to get out of your car if you drove into them to the approval of hundreds of homes by the Haudagain Roundabout).

Sustainable Development refers to building thousands of homes in boring greenbelt land while the city centre disused brown field sites sit empty, adding character to the area. So what if there are no thoughts given to infrastructure and the roads come to a standstill? We will be a sprawling (urban sprawling) metropolis before you know it.

There is the little matter of our air pollution continuing to worsen, our C02 production is increasing, and our health suffering.   But we’ll be making money.

But there is some good news:  Michael Gove is going to punish parents if their children are not ready to learn and don’t show respect!   Result!

Even better, we are going to teach children British Values (perhaps this term will need its own column to be sufficiently defined). It’s hard to understand why young people don’t respect authority figures. A few teachers have turned out to be child abusers, woeful incompetents and/or would-be brainwashers, but that can’t be the cause of any disrespect or mistrust, can it?

Perhaps we could ask some of our MPs why young people have problems respecting authority figures.  We can’t ask UKIP Man Colin Brewer why he recommended putting disabled children down as if they were deformed livestock; he’s passed away.  It would have been nice to get his perspective on respect.

We could have asked Maria Miller, former MP and Culture Secretary for her expert opinion on youth culture – but unfortunately she’s spending more time with her family after deciding to resign, coincidentally she was involved in an expenses fiddle, and allegedly intimidating a journalist.

 this book has something to do with ideas like truth, justice, racial equality and fairness

We could ask elder Statesman Tony Blair to write something up on the matter; after all, his creative writing flair turned a fairly tame dossier into a terrifying call to war, when he did a bit of editing, and told us that Iraq was able to hit us with chemical weapons within 45 minutes (Perhaps I shouldn’t include the Iraq War – look how well that turned out for the Iraqi citizens after all).

Pity no one ever found those weapons of mass destruction that were meant to be pointing at us.

There are, as you can see, plenty of role models to inspire young people to respect authority figures. Let’s punish those parents, and ban a few books while we’re at it. Gove of course has got rid of a few books of late from the curriculum, including some obscure work called To Kill A Mockingbird.

Apparently this book has something to do with ideas like truth, justice, racial equality and fairness. Doubt there is room or need for such a book these days.

Anyway, on with some definitions, based on some memes doing the rounds on Facebook

Simile: (Eng. noun) comparison between equal items – such as ‘breakfast is to morning as lunch is to afternoon’

It’s great when you come across really clever memes using simile for comparing things.  One such meme that has been doing the rounds for at least 15 months is pictured below. The source of this one is difficult to pin down, but surely it can’t be anyone connected with either advertising or the tobacco lobby.

The idea is that putting images of diseases caused by smoking on cigarette packs is exactly the same as putting pictures of animal experiments on cosmetics labels, or obese people on fast food wrappers, or deeds of crooked politicians on tax returns.

As really clever as this might seem at first, alas!  There are just a few problems with the simile being used.

In the first place, if we are to look at cigarettes, cosmetics, fast food and politicians, you might conclude that only one of these things is: a.  always damaging to your health, b.  harms those around you, and c.  has no redeeming health benefits at all.  (No, I don’t mean politicians, I mean cigarettes).

It has been possible for decades to buy cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals, and Europe has pretty much called time on animal experiments for cosmetics (but note – dogs and other animals are often made to inhale tobacco smoke in remarkably cruel, unnecessary experiments).

Moving swiftly along, fast food and alcohol are not instantly harmful (but should be ingested in reasonable quantities), but as the WHO will tell you, all smoke is hazardous not only to the smoker, but those around them. Sorry, this meme may look very clever at first, but it is completely illogical.

Then there are rather more sinister memes. Two London murder victims are compared side by side.

Why was there no monument for one, and for the other all sorts of awards given to the relatives? How unfair this looks at first glance.

The two being compared are murdered black UK citizen Stephen Lawrence, and murdered UK soldier Lee Rigby. Both were innocent of any wrongdoing; both were brutally, senselessly murdered.

How unfair that Lawrence’s memory and family were treated differently – or so you were supposed to think. Happily, the men who executed Rigby were immediately caught and brought to trial. What this little, innocent-looking meme conveniently overlooks is that Lawrence’s family, witnesses and friends were put through hell by the police.

The investigation overlooked vital clues, which were allowed to be destroyed by those implicated. The police spied on and tried to discredit witnesses.

The cover-up that was attempted was thwarted in no small part by the courage and dedication of the Lawrence family. Perhaps the nice people who created this meme just didn’t know about the Lawrence case background? After all, they have a lovely-sounding name, ‘Britain First’.

Britain First: (English proper name) – a social media force known for racism.

The D-Day anniversary came, and with it came stories of heroism, the scale of the human tragedy of battle – and memes from Britain First. Many people shared these memes without checking what group was behind them, and in doing so swelled the Britain First viewing figures and popularity stakes.

Thankfully we now also have on Facebook ‘Exposing Britain First’ – a group combating the propaganda war that Britain First is waging.  Old Susannah finds Britain First using WWII commemorations just a bit confusing: Britain First seems to want us to overlook the small fact their racist, nationalist values are exactly what the soldiers Britain First posts about were fighting against.

Unionist Alliance: (English fictional proper noun) – a supposed group of organisations opposed to Scottish Independence.

This meme popped up on Facebook, using what looked like logos from a wide range of groups from the BNP and UKIP through the Conservatives, LibDems and Labour.

It was headed Unionist Alliance.  People saw this and shared it, with suitably outraged comments against Labour for joining this alliance – only it doesn’t exist.

I tracked down the originator, who then told me ‘it was an illustration’ and not a real alliance.

Pity those who saw it didn’t have that information. The Labour Logo was also altered in this odd meme. Labour are looking into it, as may be other parties.

Wimbledon Rules: (Eng. compound noun) – rules for those attending tennis matches on how to dress, act and not to wave banners or flags.

So – what’s wrong with Alex Salmond waving a giant saltire when Cameron can wave a flag at the Olympics?

Alas, they are different events with different rules. So, comparing what’s allowed at Wimbledon with what’s allowed elsewhere isn’t particularly logical.

I guess the creator of this one, who hasn’t answered my messages yet, will let us know if he was in the dark about the Wimbledon rules, widely publicised at the time of Salmond’s social gaffe.

So – be careful what you believe, who’s trying to get you to share their memes, and do look into things before jumping to the conclusions you’re being led to.

Next week: Send in any memes you want to have looked at; there are plenty out there.

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Jun 132014

By Bob Smith.obesity-tax-for-kids cut

A loon is noo wy’in in
15 steen is his wecht
At the age o eleeven
Wi obesity is haen a fecht
Some fowk they are ca’en fer
Ma an Da ti be teen in han
Chairged wi child neglect
An as parents shud be banned
Noo ere’s na doot ava
His wecht is ower the tap
Bit is it the loon’s fowks
Fa shud be takkin the rap?
Did they neglect ti tell him
Faist food cwid be ti blame?
Or did they pile his plate
Fan the loon he aet at hame?
Bit chairgin ‘em wi neglect
Aat’s takkin things ower far
Jist supply him wi a bicycle
Ban him fae usin bus an car
Noo a hiv ma ain theory
Aboot foo the loon’s aat size
Maybe ower muckle burgers
Tapp’t aff wi some French fries
It cwid o coorse aa bi doon
Ti a faulty faimily gene
Far the loon he his a likin
Fer jam tarts an clottit cream
A hope fer the laddie’s sake
He manages ti lose wecht
An his parents dinna hiv ti
Tak on lawyers in a fecht
The nanny state is on the mairch
Fit next wull they rail agin?
Maybe fat fowk ha’en sex
Cos they’re causin an affa din?
We cwid maybe aa bi dee’in
Wi losin poonds roon the middle
If mannies canna see their willie
Fin they gyaang ti hae a piddle

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Photo: Christian Cable/Creative Commons
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May 092014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryBefore I get down to the usual business, at the time of writing, the fire in Crovie is foremost on many people’s minds. The homeowner  is still unaccounted for (as is a household pet), but remains have been found.

I’ve personally had a great week of travel and adventure, but that all seems a long time ago. Whoever you are, and whether you like or loathe my 150 political satire columns, I’ll ask you one thing – please get and maintain a smoke detector.

People who know me may think I go overboard in my zeal about fire issues; maybe I do.

However, I’ve had friends and relatives who are fire fighters, and all of them will tell you how very quickly a small fire turns into a room filled with fatally toxic smoke. They’d tell you to have a fire alarm and test it, have a fire blanket and/or extinguisher – and to have a fire plan.

No one cares about these details when they’re at home, comfortable surrounded by friends, family and possessions. Everyone who has lost friends, family and possessions because of a fire will tell you they wish they had cared about these details before a fire struck. I’d beg you to get an alarm if I thought it would make you do it.

A childhood friend of mine might still be around today for that matter. They couldn’t find their way out of a smoke filled room which quickly became toxic. (Mind that chip pan in particular; that’s the regional main cause of house fires).

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On the lighter side of things, The UK Subs came to town, shook things up at the Moorings Bar, and my ears are still ringing (despite wearing earplugs). It was also  Aberdeen Voice editor and founder, Fred Wilkinson’s birthday. Happy Birthday Fred.

I’ve been lucky enough this week to be in Nice on the Cote d’Azur and in Monaco. Nice has a large outdoor square – but guess what? The weather is warm and dry enough for it to be used for all manner of things year round. Amazingly, there are beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers everywhere – and no one picks the flowers or uproots the plants to be cool on their way home from a drunken night out.

No one seems to litter at all either, and I don’t think they’ve painted their pavements gray to be cool, either like we just did. Along Nice’s waterfront you won’t find giant, windowless movie theatres, shopping malls, sewerage plants or a massive industrial harbour.

It’s almost as if creating elegant, relaxing, plant-filled open spaces were more important than money. And the money pours in as the tourists can’t get enough of walking up and down the waterfront on the Promenade des Anglais. Aberdeen still has some wildlife tourists, but let’s see how long we can completely industrialise/commercialise our remaining coastline.

do not let your pets drink from the East Tullos Burn

Funnily enough, Nice has far cleaner air than we do as well. Could this be because they’ve set aside green spaces, arranged very frequent and affordable public transport, have a bicycle rental scheme, and encourage pedestrians? Funny people, the French.

One of my flights was delayed due to a minor engine fault. Some of the passengers were very cross about the captain’s decision not to fly (he seemed to think that not risking our lives instead of flying with a small engine leak was a good idea).

Quite rightly the more important passengers started grilling a young stewardess about the engine’s technical problem, demanded to know precisely when the plane would be flying, what the captain was doing to solve the problem, and other things she’d clearly have known all about. I’m surprised the poor girl didn’t put down her drinks tray, whip a spare part out of her pocket, and just fix the engine there and then.

In the end, BA were great at solving the problems and getting us all going. Thanks BA.

Despite my trying to have a proper vacation, some news stories arose in the Deen that caught my imagination.  A word of caution: do not let your pets drink from the East Tullos Burn. It may look prettier now than it did – but the water doesn’t seem to have been cleaned at all.

SEPA have insisted in the past that it’s too hard for them to find out where the pollution is coming from. And still, its American counterpart the Environmental Protection Agency manages to find out who pollutes similar little streams – like the Mississippi for instance. If only SEPA were closer to where the problem was in East Tullos. But they’d have to leave their offices and walk for 10 minutes to get to the burn.

Here then are some definitions defining the week’s news.

Pest Control: (mod English compound noun) to manage, contain and destroy vermin.

Alas!  All is not well in the Cults/Bieldside/Miltimber area.  Pesky vermin are sticking their heads into private gardens, trampling things underfoot, stumbling cluelessly around, and ignorantly destroying anything in their path.  While I definitely feel for these poor, dumb creatures, it is clear that there are just too many of them in our area.

I had hoped that measures taken in May 2012 would have lessened this particular problem, but it seems to be creeping back. I am of course for a humane solution. But something must be done about Aberdeen’s Liberal Democrats.

You may not be able to believe it, but none other than Aileen ‘HoMalone’ wants to do something about deer population.

they trampled on their own pledge not to charge for university education

Expect HoMalone 2 in the Cults area soon. Based on the popularity, efficiency and economic success of her destruction of the Tullos Hill deer (to plant trees on a windswept rubbish heap with little soil), I’m sure the residents of her Bieldside/Miltimber ward will be overjoyed.

Well, apparently ‘several’ of them will. Here’s what HoMalone wrote recently:

“Several residents in the Cults area have contacted me about the presence of Roe Deer whose [sic*] numbers are growing across Scotland. Aberdeen is well ahead of most authorities in the careful, sensitive, management of the situation. A Council team is working on a plan for managing the growing deer population. Over-population is a problem for the deer since the natural environment can only feed a certain number of deer. In the meantime please be extra vigilant when driving at dusk in the Inchgarth area.”

In large numbers, the LibDems ate their way through the city council’s funds, forcing other species, such as people in need, with health problems and the elderly to suffer.  Then in a symbiotic relationship at the UK level, they trampled on their own pledge not to charge for university education. The 2012 ballot box cull saw only five of them going; the chief doe, known as ‘Kate’ was humanely put down.

A lone stag known as ‘Martin’ looks increasingly uncomfortable, and may be leaving the old deer (‘Aileen’) for a more successful herd soon.

Don’t let this menace grow back to its pre 2012 levels. If you are in Bieldside, Cults and Miltimber, you may want to think about feeding these pests by giving them pound notes, votes or attention, even if they seem relatively harmless and innocent to you. I can assure you, the LibDems are not.

*It’s interesting  HoMalone’s written ‘…the presence of Roe Deer whose numbers… ‘  perhaps she is more sensitive than we believe and thinks the animals are people?  If you are describing things, you use words such as ‘which’; if you describe people, you use words such as ‘whose’. Perhaps she secretly isn’t an animal destroying poison dwarf ready to have any life form she finds inconvenient snuffed out?

Or is it more likely she’s just a bit ignorant of some language fundamentals?

Propaganda: (Latin origin, noun) – to deliberately spread lies, exaggerations in order to sway opinion, or further a political cause.

Old Susannah is staying out of the referendum debate.  I’m not endorsing either side.  But a poster purporting to show Labour joining up with those nice BNP lads and others like those winsome UKIP chaps found its way into my news feed.

Poster from Alistair Davidson purporting Labour in bed with unsavoury orgs.Somehow, among the tiny trickle of honest, calm, factual referendum information out there, this therefore stuck out as being a little suspicious. It had attracted a few disgusted comments already; after all – if it’s in print or if it’s a picture, it has to be real, doesn’t it?

Some people are looking at it, assuming it is legitimate, and are therefore very angry indeed at Labour.

Alas! A swift email to a Labour politician confirmed that this poster is a complete fabrication.

Labour are not in any deal with the BNP. It is almost as if whoever created this wanted Labour to be discredited; I wondered if this had anything to do with Labour’s ‘no’ stance on independence.

I’ve asked the oldest source of the poster what they could tell me about it, and this is what they wrote:

“I don’t think the poster was used in any poster campaign. It was created as an illustrative means of showing people that all these parties are grouped by a common cause and that is to keep the union.“

Funny though – the person who put the poster on Facebook didn’t let viewers know that it was an ‘illustrative means of showing people that all these parties are grouped by a common cause…’. I wonder how they got permission to use so many logos in their little ‘illustration’ for that matter?

Coincidentally, the person who seems to have first posted the poster on Facebook (as far as I can find) has one or two friends who are SNP councillors. These  include Liz MacDonald, Ken Gowans, David Turner, Shab Jaffri , Peter Johnston, Peter Grant (no relation to legendary manager of Led Zeppelin I assume), Graham Ledbitter, and MSP David Torrance.  I’m sure these people have had nothing to do with a poster campaign which was just a tad dishonest.

I’m equally sure they will be quick to have it stopped and will come forward to denounce this kind of propaganda.

If only we could keep the healthy, honest, open, respectful level of referendum debate going on for another year, I’m sure we’d all be very well informed indeed.

Botch: (modern English slang; verb) – to make a bad job of something; to fumble a task or operation.

America has so little crime because it has capital punishment; ie. a jury of your peers (well you hope they will be your peers) can convict you on the evidence (which you hope won’t have been tainted or fabricated, like the poster described above), and after a fair trial (hopefully) you can find yourself hung, shot, gassed or given a lethal injection.

Seems fair. If you don’t get a fair trial (say you are of sub normal intelligence, get a bad or disinterested legal representative, get tried by a jury who are all of a different race from you, had the police mess up, lose or ignore evidence – accidentally of course), then you can always either hire an expensive lawyer for an appeal.

America will punish criminals by death, but killing them is not supposed to be ‘cruel or unusual’

If you don’t have lots of money or haven’t really understood what was happening, then then you can hope for a pardon from the state governor (but for those who really do have lots and  lots of money, you may never have to get to trial at all).

Of course when George W Bush was governor of Texas, he didn’t pardon a single one of the hundreds of people the state executed. In fact, he mocked one of them (a woman who had finally snapped at her chronically abusive spouse and killed him).

Still, if you were innocent but had no fair trial, no appeal, no governor to save you – you might always luck out and get a posthumous pardon. So that’s all right then.

Unfortunately, sometimes an execution is ‘botched’, as happened this week to one Clayton Lockett  in Oklahoma.

America will punish criminals by death, but killing them is not supposed to be ‘cruel or unusual’ – something Old Susannah hasn’t quite got her heard around in all these years. Anyway, you’re supposed to die a nice fast death – with a room full of spectators gawping at your last moments (nothing cruel or unusual there, then).  Unfortunately, this man died in agony over the course of several hours.

It became so distasteful to the audience that the curtains had to be drawn so they didn’t see an unpleasant state execution as compared to your socially-acceptable state execution.

Yes, this was a man convicted of a serious capital crime. I guess it was just divine intervention that tortured his last hours, and not the blatant incompetence of those who didn’t know how to find a vein or how to see the lethal cocktail of chemicals was going into his tissues and not into his blood stream. Could have happened to anyone. We all botch things up now and then.

Finally, for some reason European pharmaceutical companies that make the relevant drugs (why make them in the first place some might ask) are now reluctant to sell them to the States to kill people. I guess some companies just don’t want to make money.

Next week:  more definitions

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Well, it’s been a long, fun, eventful, educational and somewhat strange 3 years and 150 Old Susannah columns for me and I just want to say thanks for those of you who read it, thanks for those who have sent information (and the occasional kind email) over time, and for those who support Aberdeen Voice. The Voice runs on donations; any amount however small is welcome; here’s a link.

All the best,


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May 012014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally Ho and please excuse the late running of this service. Among other things, I’ve been up to Gardenstown to look into the operations of USAN’s company, Scottish Wild Smoked Salmon.

There is a video of them having an interesting little chat with one man from Sea Shepherd; clearly there are some colourful vocabulary words in that video being used by the men with guns which sadly are not  suitable for definition here.

Anyway, USAN’s people want to shoot seals from private land, and the landowner isn’t having it.

For some reason, not all of the locals and the tourists are that pleased to see men in high viz running around with rifles slung over their shoulders cursing at their opponents.

Salmon stocks are considerably down in some rivers; farmed salmon live in incredibly cramped, cruel conditions (with sea lice painfully biting through their skin to the bone), and seals are on a downward population curve as well. Let’s therefore catch all the salmon we can, blast the seals through the head with shotguns, and make money selling smoked salmon to Norway and China.

That’s the entrepreneurial spirit we’re all so proud of. And I wouldn’t worry – we will always have massive fish stocks, and quotas are wholly unnecessary. The only problem is that we also have people who, for whatever reason, want to visit Scotland to look at the seals, birds, fish and cetaceans. These people spend in the region of £65 million pounds ever year.

Many of these people are from the UK. Why they can’t just stay home and watch a wildlife programme on television like everyone else is a mystery. But apparently walking around in non-polluted air, getting exercise and a little sunlight are good for health. Who’d have thought it?

Clearly, few people in Aberdeen City planning think green spaces have any worth; our green spaces are being eroded. New homes are springing up in fields (like the wildflowers and mushrooms that used to); at least they’re all extremely tasteful, unique, and profitable to the builders. Brownfield waste ground is, er, going to waste.

Thankfully we’re going to tear down one of Torry’s remaining granite gems, Victoria Road School. With luck, we’ll get an office building with a glass façade. If you wanted to visit Loirston Loch before all the land around it is built up, get in there quick. How the wildlife, especially migrating birds, will manage is another matter.

And yes, there are tourists who actually come here to Aberdeen to look at wildlife. For now, anyway.

In Tullos, the city has given back the parking area that used to service Tullos Hill. It had been gifted to the city – but we took such bad care of it it’s been clawed back by the public sector.

We were unable to stop travelling people from trashing the area and so we closed the parking off rather than guarding it properly. It fell apart. So rather than having a welcoming visitor parking area for Tullos Hill, we will now have private parking (and we lose one path to the hill as well). I’m sure there were many public consultations widely publicised, but funny, I just didn’t see them.

I’m likely to get an asthma attack now that I’ve suddenly developed asthma

Between new offices and homes by Loirston Loch and new offices in Altens, I predict there may be one or two more cars on Wellington Road. The planners seem to think we’ve little to worry about in terms of pollution – or they’d not have given this the green light. For some reason, Aberdeen has some of the worst air pollution in Scotland.

Could there be a link between air pollution, hundreds of cars and decreasing green spaces?

I wouldn’t worry about it. I can’t actually – or I’m likely to get an asthma attack now that I’ve suddenly developed asthma. UK deaths with a connection to air pollution should not be a consideration when we have offices to build and roads to create. In fact, we’re only talking about 28,000 air pollution-related deaths a year.

But back to more positive stuff. The Palma Violets were amazing in The Tunnels; I wish I could show you my photos, but they’ve disappeared into the either when I tried to transfer them. Then again, when the band started, it was hard enough not to get trampled let alone take good pics; respect to the photographers who manage it. The crowd was wild.

A slightly more restrained crowd greeted The Temperance Movement in The Lemon Tree on the 26th April. This is my favourite up and coming band; the place was packed, and everyone sang along to all the songs (more on this later).

But my real brush with a superstar came this past Monday; I was selected to join a teleconference with…. David Cameron! Well, me and a thousand other people. I may never wash my phone ear again. I’d hate anyone to be jealous; I’d equally hate anyone to think I’m a cynic. However, if it was 100% live, then Cameron did very well indeed.

His opening remarks on this Europe-themed chat were perfectly spoken and very well timed and phrased. The questions when I was still on the call were, would you believe it, all very sympathetic to the Conservatives. It looks like we’re being promised a referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU. But fear not, it’s years away.

One of the questioners asked how we stop benefit scroungers coming from Europe. Perhaps I missed something, but I don’t recall Cameron objecting to the phrase ‘benefit scroungers’.

the news seems dominated by people and organisations in power who know what’s best for us

We can’t have people coming over here and asking for money. This is a capitalist country. You have to first have lots of money, then avoid paying tax on it by sending it offshore. This is good for the banks. Well, the food banks anyway.

While these hoards of Euro benefit scroungers are coming here, the likes of Bernie Ecclestone managed to avoid over one billion pounds in tax according to the BBC. Somehow, they never got round to letting me ask a question. As thrilling as this call was, I was too heartbroken realising I’d not speak to DC myself, so I rang off.  That, and it was time for a beer.

This past week (and longer), the news seems dominated by people and organisations in power who know what’s best for us and want to set the collective moral compass to point where they say it should.

Farage and his crew know that god disapproves of gays. Alex Salmond thinks we should admire Putin (also not known for being fond of gays). Alas! Even BrewDog has come under fire for setting a bad example. So who are these bastions of what’s morality? Here are a few definitions to help.

The Portman Group: (Modern English Noun)
Self appointed alcohol regulatory body formed by private drinks companies.

BrewDog are in the doghouse; they’ve had a letter from The Portman Group telling them to be good dogs.  BrewDog however did not roll over, and sent a slightly scathing reply, telling Portman to clear off (although BrewDog’s language was a bit more colourful).

So, what is The Portman Group?  According to their website, it :-

“…was established in 1989 by the UK’s leading alcohol producers. Its role was to promote responsible drinking; to help prevent alcohol misuse; and to foster a balanced understanding of alcohol-related issues. The name derives from the fact that the early meetings to launch the organisation took place at the Guinness offices in Portman Square, London.

“In 1996, the Portman Group took on the additional role of encouraging responsible marketing when, in response to fierce criticism of ‘alcopops’, it launched its Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Merchandising of Alcoholic Drinks.

“The Code has since been expanded to cover other forms of promotion, including websites, sponsorship, branded merchandise and sampling, and is widely credited with raising standards of marketing responsibility across the industry.”

I do just have one question. If the group exists in part to raise ‘standards of marketing responsibility’ Old Susannah wonders where the Portman Group was when Diageo tried to steal an award from BrewDog at a ceremony by fixing the result? Perhaps they are concerned with raising only some companies’ standards.

Oddly, this private group’s lofty moral goals haven’t really hit its members very much. The Portman Group started in the Guinness offices, but beer was not all that was brewing. How very fitting that concurrent with TPG’s birth, a Guinness-related massive fraud scandal came to light.

Who can doubt the moral authority of the police?

Its details are colourful, and about as clear as a glass of the Liffey water itself. For one thing, Ernest Saunders, one of the defendants, managed to become the only person in history to have managed to recover from Alzheimer’s.

He was given a reduced sentence because of his reduced mental capacity. Once freed, his mind sprang back to sufficient condition to be able to run businesses. Isn’t it amazing what kind of cures money can buy?

I’m sure TPG isn’t remotely worried by the antics of the country’s fastest-growing beverage company, and this current threat by letter to Martin and James is not an attempt to derail an amazingly successful marketing campaign which can’t be helping TPG’s own member companies. It’s just that The Portman Group want everyone to be as moral as their own members are. Cheers.

Stop and Search Powers: (Modern English compound noun) – rights granted to police to stop and search anyone they choose.

Who can doubt the moral authority of the police? Who can question that? (Well perhaps the Guildford 4, the Birmingham 6, the plebgate politician, George Copeland, the Stephen Lawrence family…). The bad news is that the ConDems are going to possibly curtail (to a degree) the rights of the police to stop and search anyone they choose.

Part of the reason we’re so safe now is that the police can detain anyone they like. This is what keeps our streets free of crime.

There may be a tiny discrepancy in the kind of people who get ‘randomly’ searched – most belong to ethnic minorities. It’s almost as if there were institutionalised racism endemic in the police (or so former officer Gurpal Virdi might think – he was accused of sending out racist messages from his computer, usually when he wasn’t even around).

This spurious charge of institutionalised racism is just about one year old, so I’m sure it’s all been cleared up by now.

Teresa May, darling of the front benches, says that about 27% of the police searches made under stop and search laws were potentially illegal. If the figure is really only that low, perhaps we should just let them get on with it. It’s not as if the police are arbitrarily flexing their muscles and intimidating people, is it?

I’m afraid that’s all the morality I can stand at the moment, or I’d have defined some terms on Tony Blair, UKIP, and so on. Let’s all try to remember to learn from our betters, and be moral, upstanding citizens. If you can’t do that, then just try and avoid random stop and searches.

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Apr 282014
scottish wild salmon company sign in gardenstown 27 april 2014

Scottish Wild Salmon Company sign in Gardenstown 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

By Suzanne Kelly.

When Scottish Wild Salmon Company (SWSC), a subsidiary of Montrose-based USAN Salmon Fisheries Ltd arrived in Gardenstown, the landowner made it clear there was no permission to shoot seals from his property.  At least one such illegal seal shooting took place last year, yet no one was charged.

Tourists who had witnessed the episode last year abruptly cancelled bookings and left; some locals were concerned; some angered.

This year the SWSC pledged not to use lethal methods to deter seals from going near its salmon nets near the Ythan Estuary. The SWSC arrived in Gardenstown and Crovie this year to net large numbers of salmon (we have asked for figures but no answer has been received yet). They arrived with guns.

Sea Shepherd arrived to monitor the situation this year. Here’s what’s happened since.

A Video Nasty

Sea Shepherd personnel were harassed by SWSC operatives, and a video was released, showing an example of this. The video showed three SWSC operatives cursing at, and intimidating Sea Shepherd and trying to stop them filming which Sea Shepherd had every right to do.

The owner of the area of land in front of the building and yard SWSC operates from has forbidden shooting. Sea Shepherd’s internet posting reads:-

“We have debated long and hard over whether to release this video showing Scottish Wild Salmon Company staff behaving in a threatening and abusive manner to one of our volunteers. Our final decision was made for us when these very same employees arrived at our beach clean last Friday to intimidate our staff, even making sexually explicit comments to one of our female volunteers.

“We hope that the residents of Gardenstown and Crovie will continue to come forward to tell the Scottish Wild Salmon Company that they are bringing disgrace to this otherwise beautiful part of Scotland not only with their seal slaughter but also with their behaviour in public.”

In a concurrent development, invoices were hand delivered to the Sea Shepherd charity demanding thousands of pounds in fees for filming in the harbour area; these invoices were since withdrawn. It is understood that not everyone in the harbour board was happy with these invoices being issued in the first place.


It is proven that Sea Shepherd were threatened by people intent on shooting seals who had rifles; why there is no prosecution forthcoming is unclear.

Crovie looking towards location of wild salmon netting 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

Crovie looking towards location of wild salmon netting 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly

It has also been proven that there is no permission to shoot seals granted by the landowner:  no one can shoot seals in Gardenstown and Crovie lands.

What men are doing walking around the area with shotguns then is something of a worry and certainly reason for the law enforcement agencies to step in. (Aberdeen Voice readers may well want to compare and contrast the way in which men with rifles are walking around these coastal towns, having been proven to engage in threatening behaviour, and the ‘Siege of Heathryfold’).

Aberdeen Voice has been told that the SWSC’s operatives are living in a non-residential building. While that is not a huge violation of law, it is still illegal. However, the more serious accusation has been made to Aberdeen Voice that guns are being stored in the SWSC’s building.

Aberdeen Voice will share this allegation with SWSC and the police, and will report back with any responses.

If the rifles are not being stored in the building in question, then where are they being legally stored? Did the police investigate how the guns are being stored when they investigated the video of Sea Shepherd’s man being threatened by people who had rifles?

A Walk on the Wild Salmon Side

Aberdeen Voice visited Gardenstown and Crovie, and spoke to locals and Sea Shepherd. No SWSC employees were visible, and their premises locked; it was a weekend. SWSC has given their position in an earlier email, the contents of which appear in the comments section of a previous article, and will be welcome to explain some of the issues arising from this article.

Despite proponents saying that shooting seals is essential and no concern to the people of the north east, many locals are very much opposed to the idea of shooting seals. As one explained:

“A presentation was made to the local heritage society [about studies done involving St Andrew’s University about sonic deterrents to seals]; there are ways to stop salmon being eaten by seals. There are sonic devices which keep the seals away, and there are ways to construct salmon nets so that seals can’t get in. Shooting should not be happening.”

Another said:

“I put the blame for this on Marine Scotland.  I tried to get answers from them and find out how and why they issued any permits to kill seals.  I telephoned – but I never got the promised answer back. With salmon farming taking place (which has lots of room for improvement in how the salmon are treated), there should not be any large scale netting of wild salmon. The smaller anglers are against what’s happening as well.”

And another local added:

Gardenstown harbour 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Gardenstown harbour 27 April 2014. Image Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

“I have been documenting seal shooting since the seal was shot from Crovie pier last year. I will keep doing so, and I am opposed to SWSC shooting seals. I think there are two net areas (to the east) of Crovie.”

Finally, one local resident commented:

“…there are studies done on the material found in seal waste; I believe the study showed that salmon is not a large part of the seal’s diet.”  [seals eat a wide variety of sea life; salmon is far from their only food].

During our visit, Aberdeen Voice did not find a single local resident who wants gunman shooting seals in the area.

Non Net Income:  Value of Wildlife Tourism

Some would spread the belief that the salmon industries, wild and farmed, must be allowed to do as they please for the benefit of the rural communities.  The government says otherwise; wildlife tourism is big business. A Scottish Government  2010 report, ‘The True Value of Wildlife Tourism’ advises:

“… wildlife tourism annually brings in a net economic impact of £65 million to Scotland’s economy and creates the equivalent of 2,760 full time jobs.

“The report also found that 1.12 million trips were made every year to or within Scotland with the main aim of viewing wildlife. This form of tourism appealed greatly to UK-based visitors and Scots themselves, accounting for 56 per cent of trips. And it was these UK visitors who generated 75 per cent of the income.” 

Seals under threat

The UK  has common and grey seals; the common seal population is declining. We know that illegal shooting takes place (in areas other than Crovie). Aside from the danger of being shot, seals are suffering from pollution from the oil industry, marine activity and plastic waste in the water; depleted fish stocks further threaten seals, sea birds and other marine life.

Arguably we should be protecting the seal population, cleaning our water, and perhaps even taking less Atlantic salmon. An Irish-based research paper reports a drop of 75% in Atlantic Salmon populations:

“Atlantic salmon stocks in Ireland have declined by 75% in recent years (Anon 2008), and although conservation measures have been put in place, salmon stocks in many Irish rivers are below their conservation limits (Anon 2008).” – A pilot study on seal predation on salmon stocks in selected Irish rivers and estuaries.

The Gardenstown and Crovie communities do not operate solely on the basis of salmon fishing; tourism, leisure pursuits and arts play a part. These activities have demonstrably been hit by the arrival of seal shooters with rifles, witness the tourists who left after they saw the shooting last year.

Sea Shepherd will continue to monitor the activities of SWSC, as will concerned locals.

John Robins of Save Our Seals Fund said:

“Sea Shepherd and the Hunt Saboteurs Association have done a great job in bringing this issue back to public attention. I have no doubt they saved many seals from being shot at Gamrie Bay. We now need the general public to help save seals from being shot all around Scotland by signing our Petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to stop issuing licenses to shoot seals.”

Aberdeen Voice will likewise report on any further developments.

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Apr 252014

Serious questions need to be answered about how Grampian Police – now Police Scotland handled an incident last June. It’s time for a reminder of what happened during the Siege of Heathryfold, and to let people know that the search for answers is far from over. By Suzanne Kelly.

The man who wasn’t there.


George Copland’s home which was at the centre of an armed seige on June 7 2013

In June of last year, witnesses claimed a man with a gun was inside a flat in Heathryfold, Aberdeen.
This was however an empty flat – a flat far from the main road and at the end of a row of two houses accessible by a gate – you would have had to be very close to the windows to have seen anything inside, and no explanation has yet been offered as to what the witnesses were doing and how they conceivably came to the conclusion a man with a gun was inside.

Even though there are  many legal reasons for people to have guns (hunting is legal, so are pellet guns), the police decided the answer was to surround the building, cordon off streets, bring in specialist teams, and lay siege to an empty property. [Those of you with hunting rifles, shooting range pistols, starter’s guns had best take note].

They entered, and finding no one home, clearly giving the gunman story the lie, the police decided to ransack the flat from top to bottom. Perhaps the gunman was  hiding in the medicine chest or in the CD rack. This search seems to have happened before they finally spoke to George Copland, the property owner, on the telephone.

Seeing his flat on television surrounded by armed men, and getting a call telling him to meet the police (and not saying he could bring a friend, adviser or lawyer) George, who has a history known to the police of physical and mental health issues, was quite understandably frightened, and he declined to meet them.

He says the police were already inside his building; they say they only entered after he refused to meet them. This is one of at least half a dozen questions that need to be answered. But clearly as Copland wasn’t in his home, he couldn’t have been the hunted gunman.

The man with the feather duster gun.

Still, the police were not content with the search results (could it be they didn’t want to look silly for deploying a fair bit of back up at what must have been considerable expense for a hoax?). Days later they burst Copland’s girlfriend’s door down in a dawn raid, and took Copland into custody (whether or not this was a formal arrest is unknown to this day).

Searched, put into a boiler suit, possibly with medication withheld from him (another issue requiring clarification), he was allegedly asked to say that a feather duster he owned could have looked like a gun (the Sun newspaper ran a story on this).

the police have so far refused to release any information on the case

George’s account of seeing a doctor at the time differs with what the police said happened. It is certain they knew he had mental health issues before the siege; it is certain they didn’t let  him have an adviser, friend or lawyer during the long hours of his detention.

Copland also says that before his release from custody, one of the police named one of the witnesses – an interesting move on their part, and one which like so many issues needs to be examined. Aberdeen Voice knows the identity of the person allegedly named to Copland, and it is debatable whether they would have made a credible witness.

The Right to Remain Silent – well, for Police Scotland anyway

Left with several eggs on their face, the police have so far refused to release any information on the case. A Freedom of Information request was lodged but information, as well as a reasonable request for compensation, was denied.

Copland was not up to the stress or the challenge of dealing with the FOI process; he asked for assistance. He authorised an Aberdeen Voice reporter to make enquiries of the police on his behalf.  Two different signed, detailed permission letters from George bearing his address and signature were submitted to the police by email, and one original letter was delivered as well.

The police still refused to release information or contemplate compensation, and several different correspondents from the police side got involved. Some correspondence was done by email; some via the police’s online comments form. A paralegal refused to use email; and correspondence flew back and forth for months.

Finally, when Police Scotland refused the FOI request, a request for a review of how they handled the FOI request was made. This was submitted on their online form as no email address was given to make an appeal to.

The first time the request for a review was sent, it somehow was never received by the police.

It’s almost as if they had something to hide

The online form was used a second time to request the review. The request for the review advised the police to ask if they needed further information.

This second request via the online form was received, and in due course a letter came, saying a review found they had handled the FOI request perfectly.

The police said among other things that they did not have sufficient permission from George Copland for Aberdeen Voice to be given information. Did they email him, write to him or phone him to corroborate that all the submitted permission forms were genuine? No.

Does it then seem as if Police Scotland are implying that Aberdeen Voice were seeking personal data without authorisation? Yes.

After months of trying to get information and jumping through various hoops, the police refused to explain what they did and why. (It’s almost as if they had something to hide).

At that stage of the labyrinthine process, it was time to bring the entire matter to the Information Commissioner for them to consider. If the previous correspondence with the police had been confusing, the eventual Information Commissioner’s outcome was something else altogether.

It could be called Kafkaesque, but the bizarre decision, possibly unprecedented, also has a Catch 22 element.

Kafka steps in

All the correspondence was summarised, and the important items were sent to the Information Commissioner’s office – this included the request for the review and the letter giving the review outcome. So far, so good.

On 18 April Aberdeen Voice’s reporter received a letter in the post saying the Information Commissioner would not look into this case. The reason? The request sent to the police was not specific enough.

The police had the request to review how they handled this Freedom of Information request. They were told to revert if they needed more specifics. They didn’t. They went ahead and held a review upholding their actions in withholding the facts from George Copland and Aberdeen Voice.

that dialogue aspect of FOI requests doesn’t seem to exist now

Now, months later, someone has decided that the request for the review which was held wasn’t quite good enough. Kafka might have come up with this.

Information Commissioner – has the rulebook changed?

When Aberdeen Voice was involved in a FOI commission investigation into property dealings between Stewart Milne and Aberdeen City Council, we were informed every step of the way as to what the council was claiming and what they were telling the information commissioner’s office.

AV was able to counter points successfully and in the end the City had to release information.

Somehow that dialogue aspect of FOI requests doesn’t seem to exist now. Any first year law student would be making good points as to how holding a review pretty much gives validation to the request for a review.

AV had no such opportunity to put up the case for law, logic and common sense. We will be asking how often this defence is used when refusing to investigate FOI matters. It certainly seems the rules  have changed.

Carte Blanche

The police are no strangers to requests for information which wind up going to the Information Commissioner. However, the police do not have to release any info which may make the public lose confidence in them.

This is basically giving the police carte blanche to do as they please with complete immunity and no fear of accountability getting in their way. With public confidence in the police already low, surely this aspect of how the Information Commissioner operates must be reviewed and changed.

It would be interesting to know how many times this public confidence exemption has been used by the  police in past FOI appeals to the Commissioner.

More questions likely to remain unanswered.

Whose idea was it to claim the request for a review was invalid – the Police, the Information Commissioner’s office – or both?

Why did they hold a review if they didn’t need to?

Why did it take until 15 April for anyone to claim that the review which was held didn’t need to be held?

If the request was not valid, why did Police Scotland hold the review in the first place?

Since the request for review, as submitted online (no documents could be attached,) offered to supply further details for the review request if needed, why didn’t anyone point out that there wasn’t sufficient grounds given for a review?

How could the police possibly claim they didn’t have enough valid permission to release the requested information at the review stage when they could have had clarification at any time?

Does holding a review validate the request for a review?

Was the way the Siege of Heathryfold handled reasonable?  Was the way George Copland was treated legal, fair and suitable for someone with known health issues?

To come back months after the review was held, and claim that the request for the review was invalid makes police Scotland appear either to be disingenuous, or disorganised. Why did they hold a review if they didn’t need to? It’s almost as if someone higher up got wind of this, and decided to try and derail it.

Surely not.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

Perhaps the police involved in this incident may not want to breathe that sigh of relief just yet. Information will indeed still be sought by various other avenues.

Oh, and if the police are interested, the  Police Complaints Commission has been formally asked to look into this entire incident as well. Time will tell what comes of that.

More info – previous Voice articles.


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Apr 182014

Old Susannah gets to grips with letting go of a great local talent, and the latest government wheezes, locally and nationally.

DictionaryAnother eventful week passes in the Granite City, bringing good news and some sad. Children have done arts and crafts in Union Terrace Gardens, organised by Aberdeen Inspired. This is despite the city’s officer Gordon McIntosh insisting the balustrades will fall down any day, and the gardens aren’t safe to use.

Inspired even managed to hold their events without scores of crowd barriers or 7’ tall security guards. Rumours are that Gordon may be about to make some dynamic changes of one sort or another.

The campaign to save Bon Accord Baths is gaining more momentum; some £5 million pounds is needed. However, in a city with our level of wealth we should be able to do this. In fact, Aberdonians apparently have more disposable income than almost anyone else in the UK. 

We still need food banks, mind. In the UK, over one million people rely on food banks, but they’re probably just benefit scroungers and immigrants (remind me to look up the amount of this year’s UK defence budget again).

Surprisingly some good news comes from the city council, where funds from outdated, surplus accounts were given to local causes such as the Cyreneans. It’s not a huge amount of money, but after the Kate Dean/Kevin Stewart council’s assault on our charities and good causes, this is quite a turnaround.

I learned how to make pasta at an amazingly fun course at Nick Nairn’s school. You may remember the then city council almost didn’t give Nick Nairn an alcohol license. The licensing board were probably afraid that people would sign up for courses (costing upwards of £40), learn what wines go with what foods, have a glass of red or white, and then go wilding into the night, committing crimes.

Thankfully, it seems no one from the cooking school to date has gone on a crime spree, and clearly the city has the city’s serious drink culture under complete control.

Spring has arrived! Result! The signs are everywhere: the theft of cars and licence plates continues, the gramps are being set alight once more and travellers are moving from public space to public space, leaving debris behind them, presumably as a token of the esteem they hold us in. The council say the police should act; the police seem to be implementing a reverse discrimination favouring the travellers.

And I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you and I will be paying for the necessary clean-ups. A dead dog and £22,000 worth of waste was left near the beach by the travellers, and history looks set to repeat itself just a little further north.

If you want to live as you please, it would be nice to do so respecting the rights of the rest of us to live as we please – well in some idealised fantasy version of reality anyway. While some of us are trying to preserve and enjoy what’s left of our open spaces, other people seem to think we don’t care about mounds of trash or the very real prospect of stepping in human waste or over dead dogs. Thanks.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system

To the people who’ll tell me not all travellers are alike, I agree. However, these past 10 years I’ve not seen a single travellers’ site in Aberdeen left in good condition when travellers travel.

And down the road in Ross-shire, it’s now 20 birds of prey that have been poisoned. So that’s good news for the shooting estates catering to people who like to blast birds from the sky with guns. Fledgling game birds are bred in captivity like ill-used hens, and thrown out without a clue, to be blasted. The sporting life indeed; no wonder billionaires and famous TV stars like Trump are into this kind of pursuit.

So how do our police perform when it comes to saving our wildlife, stopping car thefts and stopping people trashing our green spaces (when they know exactly who’s doing it)?

Aberdeen got a mention in the Sunday papers; its police seem to like arresting children, and are very fond of random spot searches. A child of two was apparently charged with property damage. I’m sure they understood their rights and I’m sure the parents were the police’s first port of call. Police Scotland are also fond of telling people who own cars and houses to hide their goods or it’s their fault if they’re robbed.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system in place for arrest and searches. Unfortunately, the truth leaked out, and there are indeed quota systems.

Justice may be blind, but she’s counting. It’s nearly one year since the police blew the budget (or so it looked) raiding the empty flat of George Copeland. Things may have been quiet on this story in the news, but I can promise you, the fight for a rational explanation and disclosure of information are ongoing. Who knows – there may eventually be some justice for George. Watch this space.

Other than that, I’ve had some fun (Malmaison, Temple Aesthetics, BrewDog of course and the Tunnels – Palma Violets were spectacular). But this week David Innes, drummer with the Gerry Jablonski band, passed away. A service is being held the morning of Friday 18 April, and later that night a concert takes place at The Forum.

We were privileged. I’ll remember the last times I saw him, including the Moorings in early March, the Jubilee party in Union Terrace Gardens where they entertained thousands, and the Lemon Tree when the latest Gerry Jablonski & the Electric Band album was launched.

There are performers 20 years younger who don’t have his enthusiasm, energy and stamina. There are performers 20 years older than he was who would have loved to have his talent and range. If Aberdeen is a city of culture (outside of bureaucrat speak), it is because of artists like David Innes. Condolences to his friends and family.

Life Expectancy Letters: (Mod. Eng. ConDem phrase) – letters to be sent to OAPs, telling them when they will likely pass away.

Well there is a new government initiative we can all be happy with; they are going to send everyone a letter, telling them when to expect to die. I can’t see any flaws in this cunning plan.

Then again, with Alzheimer’s setting in early in some cases, and looking set to be an epidemic in the near future, I’m sure all the guardians and children of those afflicted with forms of senile dementia will be very happy to get letters to advise when mother and father are expected to die.

I’m certain too that this is not some ploy to scare the elderly into saving well into later life. After all, you want to live in comfort with as few trips to the food bank as you can manage until you die at precisely 9 September in 2027, don’t you? Letting you know when you’re likely to die will just make you take better care of your health, and your money.

And of course should you fall sick or need residential care, then the government will take your savings off of you to pay for such care.

Of course most of us who work have been paying tax throughout our working life in the belief this would go to giving us good care when we’re older. Just don’t bank on it. I’m glad there’s no chance of another pension mis-selling scheme like we saw a few decades ago. No-one would take advantage of the elderly and sell them financial products they didn’t need, would they?

Pensions minister Steve Webb said that under new government guidance, experts could assess approximate life expectancy by looking at factors such as smoking, eating habits and socio-economic background.”

 As far as socio-economic background is concerned, I wonder if those living on the food banks will have the same life expectancy as those at the merchant banks

I’m sure this scheme to write to everyone with an expected death date is not geared to frighten us into getting into private pension schemes. That would only benefit bankers and financial institutions, and our government wouldn’t show the financial sector any special treatment, would it?

I talked to an older citizens who was still of working age recently; they had decided to skive off work for a few months, and used a slipped disc as their flimsy excuse to get on the dole. I’m happy to say we made it as hard for this scrounger as we could; it was 6 weeks before they got any financial help, despite having worked all their life. Dipping into their savings to pay bills, they eventually bled the taxpayer for £78 per week.

Now if they knew what their death date was, they might have been convinced to save a bit harder, work more hours, and have more savings to burn through at the first sign of illness. This guy was not good at financial planning, either. All of his money was earned and taxed in the UK, and he didn’t shelter any of it offshore. Well, if you don’t save as much as you can, it’s simple. Just don’t fall ill or die.

Old Susannah is interested to see what factors are taken into consideration. I’m sure the ConDems won’t want to upset anyone by letting on that the air is now killing more people than ever before.

Perhaps this is such a good idea we should take it further, and make dying by the projected death date mandatory? I’d be surprised if some ConDem somewhere isn’t contemplating it.

Dune Management: (Modern Eng. compound noun) To preserve a natural area by changing it beyond recognition.

It would seem the Donald Trump school of sand dune management’s principles are taking off a treat.

the-end-of-the-road-for-trump-suzanne-kelly-by-collapsed-section-of-course-photo-by-rob-avA Cornwall-based council decided that they would ‘stabilise’ their own sandy beach by planting conifers on the beach. Somehow, this has displeased residents and visitors, who wanted to see beach at the beach, and not dying, dried out half dead trees that were never going to grow in the first place.

Of course the marram grass, gorse and trees Trump has planted has totally stabilised ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland’ as Trump Golf seems to call Balmedie Beach.

The dunes are so great I think travelling spice and silk merchants will be crossing them by camel to stay at the opulent MacLeod House.

Anyway, Trump saved our dunes for us, and that’s why there is no sand blowing around the greens or any other problems there.

My photo above shows just how stable the course is.

 Next week:  A Trump update and more definitions

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Mar 202014

dog-crap-755297-mSqrLatin Quarter is ‘moved’ to comment on the following piece which appeared in Thursday’s Evening Express.

‘North-East community leaders want to see all dogs’ DNA recorded on file, in a bid to crack down on pets fouling in public places.
‘Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council said storing the pets’ DNA would allow “faeces to be analysed” and the owners who don’t clean up after their pets to be identified, without having to catch them in the act.

‘The community council has also suggested banning dogs, except guide dogs, from play parks, sports pitches and school grounds.

‘The proposals come in response to The Scottish Government’s consultation, Promoting Responsible Dog Ownership in Scotland.

‘An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “Officers routinely carry out enforcement patrols in Aberdeenshire, and any person found committing an offence is issued with a fixed penalty notice.”’

Yes folks, somebody is so upset by dog crap they want a whole new Police Dept formed to deal with the tidal wave of filth – Dogshit Forensics.

I see this as an opportunity – I reckon we can knock up a script for a new police procedural TV show pilot and have it off to HBO by the weekend. What do you say?

Title: ‘Dogshit Squad’ or ‘Faecal Forensics – LA’ 

Starring: Hugh Laurie as Lt. Bedlington, David Caruso as Chief Doberman, Len Leung as Lt Akita, Marisa Tomei as Princess Bedlington and featuring Steve Buscemi as Towser the Mongrel

Premise: He’s a maverick dogshit forensic detective with a drink problem, caused by the time he missed a mutant strain of Weils Disease spores and his own child died. Now, another outbreak threatens every single person in LA who spends a lot of time randomly handling dogshit, and so he finds himself in a race against time to stop the stray rogue mongrel responsible with a fixed penalty notice.

As the most intuitive detective on the squad, due to his habit of working without gloves, he knows he has to get inside the head of his adversary. However, what he doesn’t realize is that the evil canine responsible has already targeted his estranged ex-wife and has taken to dragging its festering brown starfish along her front porch…

Sample dialogue:

“Dammit Chief, you can’t just waltz in here and dip your toe into this”

“Don’t turn your nose up, Princess – you can’t just expect me to leave a case like this at work”

“Something smells wrong, Akita – that’s human and I think I can prove it”

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Jan 162014

A £500+ reward has been offered for information passed to the Scottish SPCA leading to the conviction of person(s) involved in killing animals in Aberdeen’s ‘Gramps’ – Kincorth and Tullos Hill. Suzanne Kelly reports.

roe-deer-fawn-picA dog walker on Kincorth Hill made a gruesome discovery when their dog found a severed roe deer leg this week.

The witness who took a photo of the severed limb also found small mounds of an unidentified white powdery substance.

They were able to locate a ranger on the hill and reported their finds. The ranger revealed that a skinned cat had been found on Kincorth Hill as well.

Aberdeen Voice found a second hand witness who claims deer were also illegally slaughtered and dismembered on Tullos Hill earlier in January – and who claims the police attended the scene. In this instance Aberdeen Voice was told ‘the police said five deer had been killed’, and ‘there were legs everywhere’.

A Scottish SPCA spokesperson knew nothing about either event. Clarification is being sought as to whether the City’s rangers informed the police about the Kincorth Hill discoveries, and whether the information was passed to the Scottish SPCA or not.

Tullos Hill made national headlines when Aberdeen City Council pushed ahead with a scheme to plant tens of thousands of trees on this former dumping ground – killing some 36 deer in the process. A previous scheme failed, costing the taxpayer at least £43,800 (not counting the fees paid to experts including C J Piper).

Experts wrote in a Forestry Commission report that trees are unlikely to thrive because of factors including the poor soil matrix and potential for being blown over in high winds. Domestic and industrial waste from decades of dumping is clearly visible in the thin soil where the saplings were planted.

Gorse covered a large part of the hill in the past; it was home to the deer and a variety of birds. With the gorse cover, the deer had some security from predators including dogs and hunters.

Despite the stated wishes of several community councils and a petition signed by thousands, the city pushed ahead with the deer cull, insisting the trees would be destroyed by the deer, and that ‘deer had no natural predators’ – a claim made by Peter Leonard of the City’s Housing directorate, and former Housing & Environment leader, Liberal Democrat Aileen Malone.

Clearly the person or persons responsible for this current spate of animal killings constitute predators, whatever pro-culling proponents may claim.

baby deerThmMalone had prevented two people from speaking against the cull (they had new evidence to bring including the cost of the previous failure) at the committee meeting at which the ‘Tree for Every Citizen Scheme’s’ supporters voted to have the deer shot.

The reason for refusing the delegates from speaking was that Malone had only asked for a verbal report on the issue, and not a written one – therefore stopping any potential critics.

Many on both sides of the issue found this move contrary to the spirit of transparency and democracy.

It is not known how the deer were killed, if the meat was taken for use or for sale, and whether or not dogs were involved. Any such attack on wildlife is contrary to Scottish law, and fines and potential imprisonment could follow a successful prosecution. Anyone who can identify those involved is urged to contact the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999; witnesses can remain anonymous.

There are very few deer left in our area following the city’s destruction of over half the herd, estimated before the city’s cull to number 70. There have been indications that illegal dog fighting may also be taking place in Aberdeen city and shire. Anyone with information about dog fighting, the theft of animals, or animal abuse or destruction is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101, the Scottish SPCA, and/or Aberdeen Voice.

When the city and the police have responded to questions put to them about these incidents, Aberdeen Voice will publish an update.

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